Tuesday, November 28 is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving.   In the United States it is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.  #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many people are beginning their holiday shopping and end-of-year giving.  Since its birth in 2010, #GivingTuesday has grown, becoming a movement that supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year.

#Giving Tuesday grabs the potential of social media and provides a platform to encourage the giving of time, resources, and address local challenges.  #GivingTuesday is a global movement, uniting countries around the world by sharing one thing we all have in common, our capacity to care.

We have named our post today #GivingOHHSDay because we need you to give to our Mustangs.  We don’t have a lot of time to get this out to you, so let us get to the facts.  “Mamma D’ and I are writing on behalf of the Oklahoma Heritage Horse Sanctuary, Inc. (OHHS) and it needs your help on #GivingTuesday.  Their mission is to promote the preservation of the Colonial Spanish horse.  In order to achieve their goals they must first be able to care for the horses and then educate the public on their importance to America’s history and your future.  Every donation received will help them reach those goals, and we need all of the help we can get, won’t you join us?

Now we want to share why we need your help so badly.  In March, 2014 the Oklahoma Legislature designated the Colonial Spanish Horse as the Heritage Horse of Oklahoma.  This is quite an honor.  Contrary to what some believe, we don’t receive any type of funding from our county, state or any Native American tribe; we are not BLM horses therefore we do not receive government assistance or subsidies.

Our existence is solely based on people who have had the passion and desire to help.  Gilbert H. Jones who had the foresight to see our heritage and was an important part of American history dedicated his life to preserving our bloodline.  Bryant and Darlene Rickman who have struggled to keep this bloodline from extinction while raising their own family and others who have chosen to help with the conservation efforts and become breeders.

The horses went from running free on Blackjack Mountain in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma to being removed and today living under fenced conditions.  Once self-sufficient, today in need of daily care.  The Rickman’s lease with the timber companies non-renewed (along with all other livestock leases) so they could lease their lands to hunting clubs, bringing in more money per acre.

Volunteers enlisted, traps set, horses caught, trailers loaded and three years, 400 plus horses later, they were dispersed onto several pastures in Choctaw, Pushmataha counties and some were sent out of the county and state to generous friends who volunteered the use of their lands or charged minimal lease fees.  In February, 2010, the last day the Rickmans were given to remove horses a band of nine appeared before Bryant and his volunteers.  A phone call made to the necessary contact, and a request for an additional 24 hours to catch these horses was denied.  Unfortunately all of the horses were not removed from Blackjack Mountain at that time.  Uncertain on the exact number left behind, we are certain that due to the natural cycle of the herd, the number has climbed.  It’s a shame more time could not have been allotted.

Bryant had made a promise to his dear friend, Gilbert.  A promise to carry on his lifelong preservation efforts.  A promise that has weighed heavy on him at times.  I’ve been with my friend and watched the “roller coaster” ride of emotions he has taken as he watches his horses decline under fencing.  I don’t refer to their weight or their health, though both of them do fluctuate for obvious reasons, I refer to the spark in their eye.  The look that tells you their story, the one that asks “why?”  I watch my friend as he looks at his horses and says, “I feel like I let them down, I feel like I’ve broken their spirit.”

These horses have lived through trials and tribulations, even when running free.  I remember the mare that came running into Medicine Springs with the gunshot to her neck, her baby running behind calling out to her mama.  The mare nickering as best she could while the blood spurted out staining her white coat.  She was looking for help but there was not time, she fell down, one last breath.

I remember the small framed stallion, “Sparky,” who was abused by human hands that for whatever reason decided it would be fun to torture a living, breathing animal.  Castrating this stallion with nothing more than what appeared to be a pocket knife, we can only guess there was no type of antibiotics or numbing medicines used.  Stabbed numerous times around his private area.  But wait, that wouldn’t be enough for this poor animal to withstand, why not make up some type of branding sticks and brand down the entire side of this horse “Times Up.”  Then took a knife and cut him from the top of his front shoulder down to his leg in an “S” pattern.  One can only imagine the agony this horse felt during the ordeal these human hands put him through.  Then dropped him off on the side of the road. “Sparky” survived and was given to a loving family with a child who had Spina Bifida.  I remember bawling like a baby at the sight of the suffering he had endured and questioning the reasoning behind such a horrendous act.

There are so many stories like that while the horses ran free on the mountain.  Reasons varied, maybe they crossed over onto someone’s private property; or they got into a food plot planted for deer; maybe they ate deer corn or knocked over a deer feeder;  or maybe someone drank a little too much and decided a horse would make a good target; or maybe it was mistaken for a deer, you know the tail and size look similar after all.  Whatever the reason it happened then and it happens today.  Just this summer a beautiful colt was shot in one of the pastures.  In the last couple of years we’ve lost several horses, one year during the holiday season a few were found shot and left for dead on our private sanctuary property.  We live in a small town, threats are made against these horses and eventually we hear about them.  It’s sad that some find them so worthless!  And then again, we live in a small town where the majority of people are wonderful and it doesn’t get any better!

Today the Rickmans have access to ten pastures they can hold the horses in.  One is their own ranch, one can not be used to hold very many as it is more of a pine plantation which doesn’t allow for much grass, and one is a 40 acre pasture belonging to another organization which is home to approximately 16 of the Rickman horses.  The majority of the horses are running on either OHHS properties or donated pasture by friends of the Rickmans and the OHHS and all are under fence.  Unlike the mountains, they are no longer self-sufficient which means Bryant must visit the pastures daily to feed and check on the horses.  If he visits all pastures in one day the drive is an 80-mile round trip.

We estimate our feed bill at $10,000 just for the winter months.  Our round bales of hay, which we were able to purchase 62 to date with donations received, will not last long when winter does hit.  Depending on how bad of a winter and how long it lasts would depend on the number of bales we would need.  At the very least a bale for every pasture would be put out daily, and on several of our pastures several would be needed daily due to the number of horses on each place.  This does not count costs for mineral/sulphur blocks, worming medicines, winter tick dusting powders, or other necessary items to meet the horses needs.  We apply all donations toward the horses care prior to spending any of it on maintenance, fencing, repairs, vehicle maintenance or administrative costs as we 100% believe that the horses must be taken care of before anything else is!

Our horses deserve recognition.  Our horses deserve help.  Our horses deserve to continue sharing their history and heritage.  They deserve YOU!  Please find it in your heart to help our Colonial Spanish Mustangs.  Winter is gradually closing in on us and we need to feed and hay them.  We don’t ask you to take care of them, we ask you to help us take care of them!  You know that saying, “it takes a village to raise a child?”  Well, we know we can’t do this by ourselves, we are only one small part of the “village.”  We are asking you to join our “village” and help us help these majestic creatures that have been a part of American history for so long.

Thank you in advance for becoming a part of our “village,” we appreciate your support,

Much Love, ‘Namaste’ (aka ‘Filly”) and ‘Mamma D’

We invite you to visit the Southwest Spanish Mustang Association (SSMA) website or the Oklahoma Heritage Horse Sanctuary website for more information.

Some Interesting Facts:

The Colonial Spanish Mustang dates back to horses brought to America by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500’s.  The breed is noted for their alertness, hardiness, agility and endurance.   They played an important role for several Native American tribes including transport, economic, spiritual and social aspects.  It is written that some tribes used the horse for food, until they realized their importance as packing horses for their trade goods and valuables.

Dr. Phil Sponenberg, DVM, PhD wrote an article, printed in the http://www.southwestspanishmustangassociation.com/index.html , which states these horses are “one of only a very few genetically unique horse breeds worldwide.”  He writes, “the combinations of great beauty, athletic ability,  and historic importance makes this breed a very significant part of the historic heritage of North America.”  One point I think worth mentioning is the public perception that we are “feral” horses, which as Sponenberg points out in his article, “many Colonial Spanish horses have never had a feral background, but are instead the result of centuries of careful breeding,” and “the crossbred feral horses rarely have all of these qualities, so confusing the two types does a great disservice to a unique genetic resource.”  In summing up Dr. Sponenberg describes us as “beautiful and capable horses from a genetic pool that heavily influenced horse breeding throughout the world five centuries ago, yet today they have become quite rare and undervalued.”

(This information was obtained from an article written by Dr. Sponenberg and published in an Southwest Spanish Mustang Association Newsletter. )